*disclaimer; not in full
I somehow forgot these eminently worthy records when compiling my end of year list and I couldn’t leave them out. So much for brevity!
Gentlemans Pistols – Hustler’s Row (Nuclear Blast)
‘Retro’ without being an exercise in pure nostalgia, Hustler’s Row was that rare ’70s hard rock’ styled album that doesn’t feel like its trying to be any band other than themselves; and most importantly, the songs are up to the standard of those bands that lesser artists try so hard to emulate.
Troyka – Ornothophobia (Naim Jazz Records) Tricky, angular and unfunky jazz that is the opposite of background muzak; unless you want to feel perturbed. Not at all relaxing, not exactly exhilarating, but strangely addictive.
Bolder Damn – Mourning (reissue, Guerssen Records)
First proper issue of this 1971 Florida obscurity; songs are ‘fine’ rather than great, but really its appeal is all about Blue Cheer-inspired, Grand Funk-flavoured heavy hippy fuzz and period atmosphere.
Rachel Grimes – The Clearing (Temporary Residence Records)
Ominous, brooding and sometimes awkward chamber music; initially it felt a bit perfunctory, but then kept recurring in my head after I thought I’d forgotten all about it in a way that felt significant. And it grew from there
Godhole – Godhole (Mind Ripper Collective)
This double EP kind of converted me to powerviolence, a genre that never really held my attention before; seismic, unpleasant noise for sure, but feeling and substance too; this never becomes background in the way pure noise can. The Anthrophobia collaboration with Crozier is equally worthy of attention, for the same reasons.
And more of those honourable mentions…
Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld – Never Were The Way She Was (Constellation Records) – kind of sparse & bleak, but sometimes violin, saxophone & clarinet is all you need
Gorgoroth – Instinctus Bestialis (Soulseller Records) – Not the best-ever Gorgoroth album, but pretty strong; and I love Infernus’ guitar playing
Steve Vai – Stillness in Motion – Vai Live in LA (Sony) – somehow not boring; shocked.
Melechesh – Enki (Nuclear Blast) – thrashy, middle-eastern inflected black metal nastiness; as good as anything they’ve released.
Pete Oxley & Nicolas Meier – Chasing Tales (MGP Records) – two brilliantly contrasting guitarists at their best
Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat (Century Media): another intelligent, informed and powerful Napalm Death album; still at the top of their game after 15 albums
Spiritual Beggars – Mantra III (reissue) (Sony) – welcome reissue of the classic Swedish stoner/psych masterpiece
Inquisition – Into The Infernal Regions Of The Ancient Cult – Reissue (Season of Mist) – okay, a reissue, but a very welcome reminder of one of the cornerstones of atmospheric (but very un-soft) black metal
An Autumn For Crippled Children – The Long Goodbye (Wickerman Recordings) – This album didn’t really improve on the excellent Try Not To Destroy Everything You Love, but its mixture of desolate, atmospheric shoegaze-influenced music and harsh BM bits was just as effective.
Venusian Death Cell – Honey Girl (self-released) – People always seem to think I’m joking when I recommend VDC, but I’m not
Bjork – Vulnicura (One Little Indian) – More personal, revealing and emotional than most recent-ish Bjork albums, not sure if I prefer it to Biophilia though.
Blasphemic Cruelty – Crucible of the Infernum (Hells Headbangers) – a short blast from the depths of the US underground, Blasphemic Cruelty have lost none of their power or potency; and their musicianship is outstanding.
Night of the Demon – Curse of the Damned (Steamhammer/SPV) – There was a LOT of 80s nostalgia in 2015, but metalwise this was one of the best; NWOBHM-influenced metal with heart and looking like a release from Mausoleum Records c.1987; nice
Acherontas – Ma-IoN – Formulas of Reptilian Unification (World Terror Committee) – The orthodox black metal revival lumbered/wafted on throughout the year, producing lots of great albums along the way; like this one.
Árstíðir Lífsins – Aldafǫðr ok Munka Dróttinn (Van Records) – A sombre, wintry collection of folk/classical/BM influenced songs
Leviathan – Scar Sighted (Profound Lore) – pretty much the album fans expect from Wrest at this point, but none the worse for that; brooding, stern, focussed and never comforting.
Goat Semen – Ego Svm Satana (Hell’s Headbangers) – Long awaited and worth the wait, but for me their 2007 live album had an unnerving, sweaty intensity that puts it just ahead of this
Mastery – Valis (The Flenser) – invigoratingly unpleasant, yammering, disorientating black metal noise
Tribulation – The Children of the Night (Century Media) – melodramatic, cinematic but catchy black metal; like Watain used to make
Drudkh – A Furrow Cut Short (Season of Mist) – For me, probably the 3rd best Drudkh album, but that only shows how great they are; post-Burzum black metal at its best
Blaze of Perdition – Near Death Revelations (Agonia Records) – A good, strong album imbued with a feel of grim, hard-won authenticity